What does it mean to be a Shaman of the Depths? To bear such a title is more often than not a burdensome task.. at least in the beginning. Like fine wine, one learns to acquire a taste and even a thirst for such a thing. The Deep offers insight and a oneness with those who open themselves to it. The Old, Sunken gGods and the Manifestations of the Sea receive reverence in much of Nymerian society in present day. Although Ssalz’trax soured the very core of worship for them, they found their way home in the Deep with the help of the Sea itself. The Deep is what caught the sundered nation and restored faith in their ability to endure again; was there nothing one would not do for the very thing that gave All a life worth fighting for? No. Amyr’œkkh held the hands of those who wished to serve the Deep in spirit and faith, leading them to empower themselves and their nation’s soul back to a state of glory. The enduring Nymerian people did not pray for change — they took hold of their situation and earned the respect of the manifestations, which would lead to a renaissance in worship systems among all walks of life. Those who rose above and opened their very soul to attune and commune with the Deep became what would be the shamans we know today.
There are things that are observed and sought out in those that are deemed fit for the caste. This is done by the shamans of Now and of Those Before Us. Let us begin at the “Gathering” period of the process. We will shed light on it all as the Elder Shamans do their investigation of the Citadel and the surrounding territories of the Empire’s constituents.
This process is executed during the peak of Ulatal for the fact that this season seems to bring about spirits into the presence of the living more easily, be it the cold waters creeping through the Deep or the Places of Power in the sea permeating more energies for the living and the dead to take in. Those Before Us tend to be seen by those attuned to the spiritual nature of the Depths and the great Manifestations that bless the seafolk -- especially children, who are known to involuntarily bear witness more commonly than adults.
Children, bearing seen as bearing more raw attunements to the spiritual energies, tend to be aware more often and can be observed in communion with Those Before Us. Most pass it off as the children whispering to themselves, or working acts of the imagination -- but this is not always so. The children end up witnessing or even being greeted by the spiritual entities due to the season most associated with cold and death bringing for a higher concentration of the energies permeating the Deep. Places of Power, such as shrines and places of high amounts of death act as beacons through the Shade for the spirits and even some deities who wish to show themselves. These children, those who are unknowingly Attuned and Aware, they will be the ones the Shamans of the Deep seek out…
Now, let us watch as the process known as the Gathering moves in full swing.
With Tides and Rhythms whirring through the Deep and drawing those from resting to active states of mind, the Shamans stepped from the Halls they roamed and meditated in through the “nights” in the Sea. Sea life adhered to the process almost universally, especially in the deep. Nymerians had a form of rest akin to meditative trances, and they woke en masse typically, as one might wake with the rest of civilization on land when the sun comes up… only there is no sun in the Deep. It was their equivalent to dawn if a surfacer tried to make a comparison to the feeling of the timeframes.
On the subject of the compound, If one could map the interior of the sides of the trench, they’d see tunnels and caverns and cave systems and chambers of all kinds and sizes, even the more sophisticated segments for group affairs and mass events — but one could not see through the walls of the trench. So one night never know unless brought inside. Magic and Places of Power shrouded their living arrangements from prying eyes — sapient or not! The Shamans did well to mask their locations entirely - even further they were hardly traceable on an existential note. Tangled in Death’s net was more than just a saying or hurdle in survival, it was an integration into the Shade that placed a veil over the soul (unless a shaman exerted themselves to be otherwise detected.) With this, the presence of the Shamans was much harder to pick up on.
The first to leave the Keep the shamans resided in was always Amyr’œkkh when it came to events and important rites. The head(and fangs!) of Nymeria’s spiritual organization swam with serpentine glory as he guided a mass of hushed individuals of all ranges of appearance and backgrounds out of the trench wall compound’s opening within the citadel walls. The wall of the Ancestors kept a division between the dangers of the trench and civil living, as well as housed entrances to various districts and regions surrounding the citadel.
Born of the Deep Dark Black, or perhaps just residing there since time immemorial, That Old Snake, Amyr’œkkh; the Jeweled MirrorScale was one of deep spiritual attunements — much further than most you might encounter. Some considered him an Old God living among the secluded Keep. He was all too familiar with destiny in life regarding the gods and the planes they inhabited. All of the shamans knew this Path, as they’d all endured the same or similar beginnings in life; birthed into a struggle for the privilege of living and branded by it.
Amyr’œkkh and two other Nymerian shamans accompanied by a group of Those Before Us — in the effigies of the many Manifestations— moved in a quiet, somber pack, preparing for the best and the worst as the schools of Shamans dispersed from the guided mass like raindrops from a cloud. The collective of effigies of a Manifestation’s totem expressed just how close to their faith and Path one was in life. To be able to witness their blatant expression would be along the lines of one experiencing the Aurora Borealis — only with ghostly sea life. The sea life would return to only being seen by those attuned after the shamans broke off, which made the spectacle that much more special.
Amyr’œkkh made his way down and out along with the rest of the Keep’s inhabitants, divining locations with the spirits of Those Before Us. He spoke to no one and said nothing; the serpent simply pointed in directions and sniffed out the future constituents of the spiritual haven he had developed with the Nymerian people.
As per their duty for the process, once the shades and Amyr’œkkh found a home bearing a Witness, they’d cast a ghastly light over the doors to mark them as the Shamans made their way in the old snake’s stead. District after district was engulfed in activity now. No one wanted to be out, as the Shamans were not typically known to interact with common folk outside of spiritual consultations and ritual experiences.
As the serpentine spearhead guiding the alleged Culling made his way from the higher regions of the citadel, he began stopping in the center of neighborhoods, dispatching other groups with the shades of the dead and the living shamans as they began to divine the whereabouts of those who were among selection. They knew their duty: find the Witnesses — who could acknowledge the perceptions of the spiritually attuned in every home and assess whether they’d be taken into what one could only envision as a large body of sea folk, spirits, and animals alike parading through the Depths.
The assessment of a child’s perception on a spiritual level was typically decided on the spot and in the home of the to-be-severed family. If taken in, they’d be brought along the rest of the alleged culling of Nymerian young.
Ulatal made the spirits and wraiths of the sea come out and make themselves known. Even some of the more dangerous beasts came about in these times. Those bound to the Wall of the Ancestors and bound to the compound set within the walls of the trench all came forward in an act of honor and reverence for their posterity and the Empire they conscript their souls to upon death. The shades of Shamans Past kept to their obligations year-round with the Shamans within the Keep to maintain connections and a kindred closeness with the beings that sought them out so commonly. Servitude went beyond that of living Nymerians, one might say.
As it usually happens, Those Before Us aid in the Gathering by ushering the first greeting to the children in the home and are further expressed once acknowledged by the attuned child to the material plane by aid of the shamans upon their arrival. Marking homes with ghost lights and greeting children, calling to them to test their perceptions; it all panned together for a truly mesmerizing encounter that can end in joy or sadness depending on the familial values. Those who revere their totems and gods rejoice in the bittersweet moment, and others resorted to grief or violence - to no avail.
Amyr’œkkh, who had lived the expanse of Time even before Firdana, remained vigilant and had been in and out of the service of the Nymerian Empire, was massive, though he maintained a specific size to ensure he would always move without hazard in the Citadel. He was always there for the people, even if they did not want him; that was the obligations of spiritual guidance and homage to the forces that facilitate the needs of the Empire. During his time within the Empire, he’d seen many societal changes, but this particular process never faded.. Even when the Shamans fell out of public favor again-- he was there for all of it. But that never stopped his work and servitude to the Sea.
Beginnings for shamans were almost always tethered in a dance with death’s embrace. Whether it be the Nymerians, the serpentfolk, the Carchaerans, or any other sea or land race -- death had more than likely swam around them upon birth. For some Nymerians not born into a life of spiritual attunement, this meant that complications during birth had been a very possible outcome and reasserted traits necessary for Selection. Umbilical strangulation, a mother weakening to near death or even dying during childbirth, being born too prematurely.. It was all possible with them. Just as the Carchaerans and the blood feud between unborn siblings cannibalizing within the womb, or being born directly from the Elder bloodlines that yielded more of a connection between beings and the deities of the sea and their immense power. Anything could fixate one’s fate for the life of a shaman.. life is not easy in the Deep, and the weak do not survive.
Nothing could prepare an unknowing family for the Gathering, though..